Wednesday, 14 November 2018

A Tale of Two Corpses

Actually that’s a lie.

It’s a tale with three bodies in it!

*content warning, this blog mentions death, body parts, and a dog killing a rabbit* 

Many years ago I was walking in the hills behind Keltneyburn, in Scotland.

Finn, my first collie and dear soulmate was with me.

We were both enjoying the fresh air and a chance to decompress.

I loved watching Finn roam the hills when there was no sheep around.

And then Finn came trotting past me with something in his mouth…

A hoof gently swinging from a long leg bone. *sigh*

Deer poachers are a problem up there and you can find plenty of severed legs lying around in the heather.

You might not know, but Finn and I worked through a whole raft of behaviour challenges together.

One of those was about giving things up. As a dog who spent a lot of time on the streets of Glasgow, Finn wasn’t convinced that sharing was a good strategy for life!

But on that crisp autumn morning Finn was able to drop the leg when I asked him to. Having checked it for safety, I reluctantly agreed he could carry it on our walk together. After all, what could be a better reward for giving up a treasure than getting it back!

That was back in 2006.

Now I share my home with Freya and Bronte who will happily give things up to me if asked, and Laird…who often doesn’t!

Canicross folks will remember the number of dead rabbits that Laird managed to find and devour on his first ever workshop with me, while I am still trying to forget.

Rabbit corpses have continued to be something of a theme for us, from the slimy dead one Laird insisted on carrying home on one Friday morning (both Laird and the rabbit ended up in the garden for a couple of hours), to the rattling skeleton that made a fantastic toy when thrown in the air last weekend when we were away in the Dales.

My general approach is not about asking Laird to give them up. He’s not ready for that yet. Thanks to the work we’re doing with Clare in the Helpful Hounds classes and GunDog Games, Laird has been learning to hand target even with a thing in his mouth – which naturally leads to a retrieve to hand.


So, the question that matters is, what if you HAVE to take the thing out of your dog’s mouth?

What if it’s not safe to let them eat it or carry it?

Or the thing is too rotting and disgusting to allow into your house… Well, on Saturday afternoon I had that opportunity.

It was the end of a lovely long walk, and we were hoping to beat the storm clouds back to the holiday cottage.

Laird was on lead, sniffing and pouncing in the nettle beds along the fence line which were full of rabbit sniffs. Sniff, sniff, pounce! (yes really, just like a huge cat)

Sniff, sniff, pounce!

Sniff, sniff, pounce! 

Sniff, sniff, pounce, squeal, crunch

And now Laird was delightedly carrying a fresh corpse in his mouth, when we were less than 5 mins walk from our holiday cottage…

Emergency tennis ball to the rescue!

Of course that has problems too (because there’s no chance Laird would give up the tennis ball, and Brian feels similarly), but they were easier to solve (Laird will happily go sit in the van with his ball).

The whole strategy was about making sure I didn’t end up in an argument that I could lose. Instead I used my bigger brain and opposable thumbs to manipulate the situation!

So, it turns out that emergency tennis ball on a rope in my walking rucksack had a purpose after all.

Anyway, the moral of this week’s blog is to always be prepared. Don’t end up in an argument that you can’t win, and work hard at the other training so it becomes less of a problem!

Happy planning

Morag, the collie girls and the Big Yin

What’s going on in WCC Land? 

Half day workshops to learn new games to play with your dog before the winter really sets in

just click the blue links to see more information or book your space

Three week intensive classes - daytime and evening!

Wed 21st November at Murton  Stay By My Side (walking nicely on your lead) starts 6.40pm

Mon 19th November  Mind Your Manners (be polite around food, toys, other dogs and people!) starts 3pm  at the PawPark nr Sand Hutton

just click the blue links to see more information or book your space

Shhhhhh Xmas really is coming! 

We’re planning a Festive Snifftacular on Wednesday 19th December with party games, challenges and scentwork fun.

Even if your dog might not enjoy the party, you are very welcome to come along to join in the fun – there’s plenty for humans to do!

Tell us if you want to come here, and we’ll send you a special invite very soon!

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